The 17th Annual Newport Beach Film Festival took place in late April. This celebration of features, documentaries, shorts and sports has also developed over the years to include a high focus on food and fun. Over 350 films from more than 50 countries were screened during the eight-day festival run. Anchoring opening and closing night films were accompanied by upscale after-film galas. These were supplemented by nightly spotlight, centerpiece and showcase films with their own sponsored after-parties. In addition to amazing films many with cast and crew in attendance taking questions at the end of the film, movie goers had the opportunity to attend post-parties which included tastings from many Orange County restaurants and drinks provided by sponsoring Stella Artois and Tito’s Handmade Vodka. Some of the represented restaurants included Urban Seoul, Ha Long, The Iron Press, Pie-Not, Lucille’s BBQ, Le Pain Quotidien, Pandor Boulangerie, Tempo Urban Kitchen, Bella Cuba and La Vida Cantina.

The United Kingdom Spotlight films Friday night were followed by an after-party inside and around Anthropologie, Fashion Island. Attendees could enjoy food, drink and live music while browsing the newly remodeled store. Saturday night’s Centerpiece party took place inside the Room & Board Home Furnishings store at Costa Mesa’s South Coast Plaza Village.

Following Sunday night’s Irish Spotlight Film My Name is Emily at the Big Newport Theater, attendees were led by bagpiper to Muldoon’s Irish Pub for a bit of craic and appetizers.

Each night, Monday through Wednesday, was dedicated to showcasing films from various world regions. The Pacific Rim Showcase on Monday, with films from Korea, Japan, China and Australia, was followed by a post-party at Design Within Reach, located in Costa Mesa’s South Coast Collection. European Showcase Tuesday included films from Italy, France, Sweden and Germany and party at the same location.

Films from Chile, Brazil and Mexico were in store for Wednesday’s Latino Showcase, and an outdoor party in Via Lido Plaza, Newport Beach. The Wednesday night festivity highlight for this reporter was the Stella Artois Airstream trailer dispensing draft Stella Artois Belgian beer into signature gratis chalices. This event provides an opportunity to drink the best beer offered during the festival. Draft Stella Artois Cidre was also available. To date there have been no craft beer sponsors, something that will hopefully change in coming years. Beer choices for other nightly parties were limited to bottles of either Stella or Kirin Ichiban.

Next year’s festival is scheduled for April 20-27. The Newport Beach Film Festival gives viewers a wide variety of options for films, workshops, events and fun. It has become the premier festival for Southern California and beyond.